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Consul urges: learn from Israel

WA CAN learn much about building high tech and venture capital industries from the successes of Israel, says Israel consul – economic affairs Gil Erez.

Mr Erez was in Perth to promote Agritech ’99, a conference in Israel from 5 to 9 September focussing on agricultural technology.

He said an Australian delegation was going but there were plans to send a separate group from WA.

Mr Erez said Israel knew its future was in research and development and devoted 3 per cent of its GDP to the area.

Israel has a similar strong small business base to WA.

Indeed, much of Israel’s recent international success has come from its small businesses – particularly in the information technology sector.

IT exports have now overtaken agriculture as Israel’s main export.

The recent Information Techno-logy and Telecommunications Awards proved WA had a strong, growing, small IT company base.

“Israel has had more IT start ups than anywhere else bar Silicon Valley.

“There are more Israeli companies listed on NASDAQ than any other country except the US and Canada,” Mr Erez said.

“The NASDAQ experience improved the Israeli technology and taught our companies how to do business properly.”

Several US venture capitalists believe WA’s IT industry is as good as Israel’s. It is just not promoted as well.

Mr Erez said the Israeli Government had spawned the country’s IT boom by developing incubators to help businesses that had ideas with global potential survive the difficult first stage of business life.

“The incubator program started when we had a big wave of immigrants from the former Soviet Union,” Mr Erez said.

“They had good research skills but no commercial skills.

“We support the fledgling businesses for two years but they have to do a proper marketing plan.

“The government gives them money, a facility and helps them manage and market their business.

After the two years the company has to attract its own investors.

Mr Erez said international venture capital firms were now joining with the incubators so they could see what they were turning out.

He said Israel’s venture capital industry was also well developed. In fact, one of its first – and biggest – venture capital firms was a government entity now privatised.

“Many foreign investors are now investing in Israeli venture capital firms because they trust them and their success,” Mr Erez said.

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